Affordable housing proposal comes as demand surges in Colorado Springs

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COLORADO SPRINGS — The housing crisis reaches nearly all corners of Colorado Springs, with high housing prices, a lack of inventory, and a supply of affordable housing that’s trying to keep pace.

Colorado Springs City Council listened to a proposal introduced to them on Monday to expand how many affordable units are in the city.

If approved, the plan would expand the affordable housing unit at the Bentley Commons from 24 to 192 units. The developer is a consortium of nonprofits—Greccio Housing, Partners in Housing and the Rocky Mountain Community Land trust. The three, known as GPR Properties, has bought land in anticipation of this expansion, as well as take care of environmental concerns in order to meet the demand the organization says exists.

Its executive director, Lee Patke, says the pandemic has been tough on the city’s lower earners in the restaurant and service sector and other industries.

“I’ll tell you we weren’t in great shape for housing those folks and providing affordable housing units even before COVID-19, so we are way behind the curve on this.” Patke said.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has set a goal to add more than 1,000 affordable units in the city every year. 1,173 afffordable housing units are set to open in 2021.

Patke says, five years ago the 1,000-unit commitment would have been “lofty” but, for where the city is now it fits.

“I think Colorado Springs is doing a very good job with that,” said Steve Posey, the city’s HUD program manager in the community development division.

Posey says the inventory issue is not unique to affordable housing.

“We’re lacking housing at every price point,” Posey said and believes Suthers’ goal is a proactive move to ensure the city doesn’t fall woefully behind in providing housing to the people who need it.

Posey says there is demand in the pipeline for these projects and Patke has seen some wait lists for project double the number of units available, even after the lists are whittled down to ensure people meet income requirements.

What the units will cost depends on people’s income in relation to Colorado Springs median income of around $80,000.

The chart to determine a person’s rent based off of the percentage of the city’s median income that they earn. Courtesy the City of Colorado Springs. Rents for people earning 30% of the median income would actually pay $464 for a 1 bd, $557 for a 2 bd, and $643 for a 3 bd.

That’s something that’s really affordable for people to get their feet on the ground as they move up into regular housing, said Council Member Yolanda Avila, who represents District 3 where the project will be created.

Avila recognized that there is a need city-wide for affordable housing, but says that her district has more people making less.

The development would also prioritize veterans and single parents who are homeless.

From Patke’s perspective, he says affordable housing is an issue that people have become more interested in and it makes ssense was to why.

“We’re not going to be able to sustain our economy and service sector jobs if we don’t have quality places for people to live.” Patke said.

The project comes at no cost to the City, though the City would issue tax-exempt bonds of up to $20 million for the developer to pay back. The rest of the $19 Million, Posey says, will be funded by a combination of tax credits, tenants rent and housing vouchers in order to cover the costs of construction and maintenance.

The combination of funding is needed because, as opposed to market-rate housing projects, tenants rent doesn’t completely cover what it costs to put together.

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